The elephant in the room

Apr 28, 2013, 09:19 IST | Kareena N Gianani

Amitabh Kumar's first solo in the city, Message to Zero, is a collection of 50 large murals that could make you reimagine Mumbai

That mundane, greying wall you pass every day on your way to work, or wherever it is you go do the ‘more important things’ of life — try reimagining it, just on a lark Think large, think animal, think elephants and roosters, or even elephants within roosters.

The result is what 29-year-old artist Amitabh Kumar is interested in, and the murals at his first solo at The Guild should be a good place to start. Message to Zero’consists of 50 murals created at The Guild gallery and a video that documents their hypothetical placement across the city.

Kumar, who graduated from the MS University in Vadodra, a was a part of the Sarai Media Lab and co-founded the comic ensemble, The Pao Collective. “It has only been a year since I have been painting murals and I must add it makes me see walls very differently. A certain kind of liberation is inevitable when you’re drawing at such a large scale. The more I drew, the more I began thinking of what I could do with this medium,” says Kumar. Previously, Kumar drew murals at the Kochi Biennale, and later in Pune and Goa before coming to Mumbai with Message To Zero.

This, and by that Kumar means his ink blot test-like murals, could have only happened in Mumbai. “I’d love for people to imagine these murals on a wall or a building they pass by every day and never look twice. That, precisely for the reason that no one in Mumbai has the time — so how would a person always pressed for time contemplate these murals?” he thinks out loud. “Ideally, I’d like the murals to do something more for the viewer, reimagine the urban space that’s hidden under this mundaneness. Can these murals shake you out of that? I wonder.”

In spite of having created something that speaks volumes, Kumar says he isn’t trying to tell a story. “My comics have taken care of my need for storytelling,” he smiles. He isn’t stopping you from seeing stories in his work, though. Kumar is also passionate about taking art out of the confines of art galleries. “Art galleries are pristine, solemn, quiet. I hate all things pristine,” smiles Kumar. “Art, according to me, is best when it’s explosive, not implosive. And Mumbai is a hotbed for creating murals. Wall art in India doesn’t have that subversive, defiant image it has abroad. We can make that work for us.”

When: Till June 29
Where: The Guild, Kamal Mansions, Colaba
Call: 22876211 /2287/ 5839 

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